It may be a little more than two years between writing her first proper
song and the release of her debut album, but Tori Forsyth would tell
you it’s not exactly right to say her dreams are coming true.

Sure, the success of her early singles, including hitting #1 with more
than 2 million streams on the Spotify most viral chart with New Walls,
and her continuing work with award-winning producer Shane
Nicholson, is exciting.

And she loves the sound and feel of this album which can spin from
traditional, almost homespun sounds in Grave Robber’s Daughter to
rock-splashed guitars in White Noise and beautifully arranged strings in
Hell’s Lullaby.

However, there are some dreams Forsyth wouldn’t admit to herself for
a long time, growing up first on a rural property on the Central Coast
and then a 62-acre spread near Congewai, a tiny Hunter Valley village
where “literally the town is a street” she describes with an affectionate
laugh.

Poetry and songwriting was stuff other people did, not this farm kid.
Even with the encouragement of a grade 5 English teacher who “was
the only teacher in the school who made poetry a thing, and it was
really cool”, she didn’t rate her writing, declaring “I always just fluked
English”.

(Though if you are fluking English every year it’s probably not a fluke is it?)
So when Tori started putting those words to music, inspired by Stevie
Nicks and another of her parents’ favourites, the folk singer Melanie
Safka, she wouldn’t let anyone hear them, or let anyone else shape
them.

The first song she felt was good enough to be heard, Johnny And June,
would end up on a debut EP she worked multiple jobs to pay for, and
Tori describes it as having “absolutely no structure to it, because I
didn’t know what I was doing”.

“But the beauty of it is I feel like I had a very naïve start to music,
which I think was really good, because I didn’t have any expectations.”

That’s no longer the case. Expectations, and dreams, are upfront now,
beginning with writing her songs alone, rather than in the co-writes so
often encouraged for young artists.

“I tried to co-write, I did a lot of them, but I didn’t feel that they were a
reflection of me and I wouldn’t be comfortable putting them out,” she
says, arguing that being true to herself mattered more than fitting in.

“If I was to have an album full of love songs that would be dumb, it
wouldn’t make sense. If I was making an album about drinking and
having a good time on a Friday, that wouldn’t make sense either.”

That honesty is a feature of Tori’s songs which can be blunt about
some of her early experiences in the country music towns of Nashville
and Tamworth – “It was like a war zone, it was like a battlefield. I felt
like I was in high school again.” – as well as revealing about her own
struggles with mental health in a song such as Snow White.

There’s plenty of that truth in her storytelling, with its characters
looking for ways to make sense of the world, and her voice, which can
be languid or strong but always straight to you.

Not surprisingly, Tori is honest about where she sits musically. While
happily seeing herself as a country artist – there’s no denying it in the
pretty, chiming loneliness of Heart’s On The Ground – Tori isn’t
restricted by it.

See for example how the deliberately “dirty” vocal sound and frank
examination of religion in Redemption draws on a modern rock band
like Pretty Reckless as much as old time music.

There’s plenty more where that came from says Tori. “I love the ethos
of country music, but I do think I can float into to other parts of music
which is why alt.country is a good title for what I do.”

And she’s only just begun.